Are Israelis Now the Cool Kids in the Middle East?

The Trump administration discarded old orthodoxies that had been proven to be time-tested failures.
December 15, 2020
(L-R) Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Foreign Affairs Minister of the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House on September 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

What a difference sensible foreign policy can make.

Morocco announced this past week that it is joining three other Arab-Muslim nations — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan — in establishing diplomatic ties and normalized relations with the State of Israel. (Bhutan, that Himalayan kingdom in Southern Asia, also confirmed its own bilateral agreement with Israel.)

These various initiatives are loosely referred to as the Abraham Accords, which makes perfect sense given that the Semitic people are all decedents of Abraham, and we all know how seriously he took the obligation to welcome strangers into his tent.

Over the past four months, four Arab countries have decided that their economic future and national security depends, in part, on opening their tents to Israelis — and granting commercial air travel, as well. Saudi Arabia, the Godfather of the Arab world, is reportedly soon to formalize what has already been implicit — Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman’s friendly disposition toward Israel. Oman is expected to follow suit, as well. Egypt and Jordan had already entered into enduring peace agreements with Israel back in 1978 and 1994, respectively.

That is sure a lot of peace for a region that was once known for nothing aside from sand, oil and a unified, pathological hatred of Israel. It’s not possible to overstate this sea change along the Mediterranean. The Middle East has been remade. Most of Israel’s warring neighbors have, at least for now, put down their guns.

Remember the 1967 Khartoum Resolution soon after Israel vanquished three Arab armies in the Six-Day War? Israel offered to return some of the land it had captured in exchange for peace with its neighbors. (Why the Jewish army was expected to sue for peace rather than set the terms for unconditional surrender is something I will never understand.) The Arab nations that met in Sudan to craft a response to Israel’s offer returned with the infamous “Three Nos” heard around the world: “No peace, no recognition, and no negotiation” with Israel.

Khartoum is the capital of Sudan, which has now established binding ties with the Jewish state. Obviously, many decades later, these same Arab nations have a different answer to give Israel: “Yes,” nearly across the board.

So how did this all happen?

Well, the Trump administration adopted a fresh perspective on distinguishing friends from foe and discarded old orthodoxies that had been proven to be time-tested failures. The Iran deal was decertified and sanctions re-imposed against the Persian mischief-maker, with its signature incitement of conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as being the chief patron of terrorist entities, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Even more importantly, the United States debunked the most bedeviling, flat-Earth theory that confounded the foreign policy establishment for decades: Regional stability in the Middle East, actually, does not depend on a “two-state solution.”


Yes, you heard that right. All caravans don’t lead toward Palestinian self-determination. The axiom had been thought to be true, surely since President Jimmy Carter’s administration. But that’s when all Arab-Muslim nations detested Israel. The Abraham Accords re-wrote the map, one that now charts a course leading to prosperity and regional stability — with far less enmity and emotion.

All caravans don’t lead toward Palestinian self-determination.

The Palestinians could be part of these reshaped alliances, but even their own Arab patrons have lost patience. Decades of rejected peace offers and addictions to terrorism has made it plain that the only state the Palestinians are interested in is the one already called Israel.

These discoveries were made all because the Oval Office decided to think outside the box. Will the Biden administration, with Obama loyalists patrolling the West Wing and State Department, fall back onto old habits and square thinking? If one believes that the monumental achievement of the Abraham Accords would have happened under a Hillary Clinton presidency, then I have some very nice sand to sell you in the Sahara.

Yes, we’re still coping with a worsening COVID-19 crisis and legal challenges to our presidential election. News from the Middle East is not important enough these days to even qualify as “fake.” But perhaps one day, when bandwidth and balance returns, some honest broker will conclude that all those think-tanks were operating on empty —presumptions and prophesies by Middle East analysts and harrumphing diplomats were simply wrong.

What a shame for all those wasted years. Despite being such a tiny nation, Israel had fabulous natural features and much to offer. But the world couldn’t overcome the pretense and revulsion of Jewish nationhood. And Israel, so full of pluck and grit, made no effort to simply pass itself off as some quaint Presbyterian nation on the Mediterranean. The Star of David went uncamouflaged — even on its flag. Reminders of a Jewish existence were everywhere. Saturday was a national day of rest, but the world never missed a day in its hatred of Israel.

Sure, there’s still plenty of Israel-bashing going on — U.N. Resolutions and college campus cheap thrills in sanctioned anti-Semitism. But in the Middle East, where it all counts, Israel’s high-tech innovations in science and medicine, agricultural marvels, desalinated waterworks, spirited population and military might as a designated bulwark against Iran, are all too tempting for Arab financial centers to resist.

If the Biden administration can forgo any impulse it may have to appease the Ayatollahs and beg forgiveness for the discourtesy of Donald Trump, at the rate Israel is going, don’t be surprised to see Shiite clerics dancing the hora at some bar mitzvah in Tehran.

Sounds fanciful? Maybe. But that’s because so many foreign policy experts were always hopeless romantics of “Lawrence of Arabia” and fashioned their diplomacy accordingly. “Exodus,” for them, brought no feelings of redemption; the reaffirmation of life in the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people was no tearjerker. All they saw was the misappropriation of Arab sovereignty.

Note to anti-Semites and Middle East Arabists: You have been watching the wrong movie all along.

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro College, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio. His most recent book is titled “Saving Free Speech … From Itself.”

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